- Harmonica World
April/May 2005, review by Norman Darwen
- BLUES & RHYTHM
March 2005, review by Norman Darwen
- Blues in Britian
March 2005, review by Mick Rainsford
- Blues Review Magazine
Aug/Sept 2004, review by Genevieve Williams
- 3rd Coast Music
Summer 2004, review by John Conquest
- The Santa Fe New Mexican, Pasatiempo
Sept 2003, review by Steve Terrell
SKY DIRT SPEAK OUT TRUTH CD - by WILDSANG
Harmonica World Magazine, April/May 2005
Review by Norman Darwen
WILDSANG is a female duo based in San Francisco. Hilary Kay is the singer/guitarist/songwriter, whilst harmoica player Kate Freeman, fell in love with the blues in 1964. The duo describe their style as "Delta/Piedmont blues".
Kate's playing ranges from barely restrained rage on "Ain't No Strange Fruit" and chugging rythmic support on "Spoonful", to the sweet melodic "Big Top Circus" and the 'less is more' approach on "My Baby" - the epitome of the wisdom of few well chosen notes.
The CD contains plenty of uncompromising raw blues, offset by a few gentler, sometimes surprisingly wistful items, from a fiercely committed duo. It is worth making the effort to seek this out.
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WILDSANG: SKY DIRT SPEAK OUT TRUTH CD
BLUES & RHYTHM Gospel Truth March 2005 No.197
Reviewed by Norman Darwen
It is roughly eighty years since King Oliver was wowing the denizens of the Jazz Age; around sixty years back a small coterie of white intellectuals and activists were astounded by Billie Holiday (and Josh White) performing "Strange Fruit", a song about lynching. A decade or so later, the Supreme Court in America was debating desegregation, whilst towards the end of the following decade Jo-Anne Kelly was proving that a woman could also perform the hard-hitting delta sounds of a Fred McDowell, whilst the cognoscenti debated whether or not white people could sing and/or play the blues. Then the last twenty years or so have seen the development of a small, but significant number of acoustic-based African-American performers attempting to reclaim the heritage of the blues, with varying degrees of successÖ.
And all of the above history lesson is directly relevant to this release.
WILDSANG is a female duo originally out of Coyote, New Mexico, but now based in San Francisco.Ü Singer/guitarist and songwriter Hillary Kay is a grand-niece of Joe "King" Oliver and she has a wealth of experience, both inside and outside the blues field, and her writing here has the kind of Afro-centric focus that only Otis Taylor seems to possess within the blues field these days. I can't see (I hope) any white artists attempting to sing, "That ain't no strange fruit, that's my daddy" Ė and doesn't that personalization make the song, and subject much more immediate?
The duo's sound is described in their publicity as 'Delta and Piedmont blues', which is fine, as long as the listener realizes this does not mean that they provide straight copies of Robert Johnson or Blind Boy Fuller, but rather they work their own material into those idioms, though the only two covers here ('Smokestack Lightnin' and 'Spoonful', of course) prove that Hillary has the voice and guitar chops to do them justice Ė and that much is already pretty apparent right from the ferocious slide guitar driven opening number. Aside from those already mentioned, the songs themselves deal with rape, murder, revenge, being disowned, love and the circus Ė the latter being a lovely wistful number, reminiscent of Sparky Rucker's own material.
Kate Freeman is the other half of the duo, a harmonica player of north European ancestry who fell in love with the blues in 1964. Here she is very much in a purely supporting role, but one which she fills easily, her wailing harp a fine foil for Hillary's voice, or adding to the propulsive drive of many of the songs.
I have to say that I was quite prepared to be rather skeptical about this duo Ė after all, the title and cover do appear 'New Age'. But the raw, direct and accomplished musicianship and delivery, the bluntness of the songs' and the undoubted commitment to the music make this a CD worth hearing and a duo worth watching for the future.
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WILDSANG - Sky Dirt Speak Out Truth(WS2307)
Blues in Britian Ė March 2005 Vol 1, Issue 39
Rating 9 - Mick Rainsford
WILDSANG are a duo consisting of Kate Freeman (harmonica) and Hillary Kay (resonator guitar and vocals whose music is described as Delta and Piedmont roots blues, and although it is true that these influences are strongly represented in this set, WILDSANGís music is definitely there own, reminding me of a (female) downhome /gutbucket version of Satan and Adam.
Hillary Kayís family roots reflect her love of music and the powerful nature of her lyrics;
Her father Ulysses Kay, is a classical composer, her great uncle is Joe "King Oliver" and her mother Barbara, was a civil rights activist who marched alongside Martin Luther King. Bearing this in mind, it is not surprising that her music tackles issues like rape and revenge ("Josie"), the intensity of her feelings echoed in her churning slide and robust vocals, poignancy being lent by Freeman wailing harp; abandonment of a wife and Children ("My Baby") where Freemanís harp moans as Kayís voice and guitar tell their tale in almost mystical unison; or the tale of a pregnant girl forced to leave home by her religious father ("Biscuits"), reflected by the dynamics of Kayís vocals, which veer from an indignant growl to tender, almost country intonations, allied to downhome harp and Piedmont style picking.
Kate Freeman has been playing the harmonica for 35 years, having jammed with the likes of The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Moby Grape and Corey Harris, her harp playing reflecting the intensity of Joplin, Harris and Hopkins with a strong Delta feel allied to the
percussive influences of Harmonica Slim and Papa Lightfoot. Freeman can be heard at
her best on numbers like "Jump Down Mama" (which has obvious influences), where her
moaning harp is the perfect accompaniment to Kayís stomping guitar and powerhouse
vocals, and the churning "Ainít No Strange Fruit" where her wailing high register harp
stands in stark contrast to the inherent menace in Kayís vocals.
There are two covers on this set, both from the Wolf, "Smokestack Lightning" and
"Spoonful", both ideal vehicles for Kayís feral vocals; the former attaining an almost
North Mississippi hill country feel, with itís churning hap and guitar, whilst the latter is
both tough and compelling with Freemanís ferocious harp well to the fore.
The minstrel-like "Well Without Water" and the Dylanesque "Big Top Circus" round out
An impressive set that has become compulsive listening for me, and will delight all fans of downhome blues. (www.wildsang.com)
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SKY DIRT SPEAK OUT TRUTH CD - by WILDSANG
Blues Review Magazine, Aug/Sept 2004
Review by Genevieve Williams
The blues has always been about the real world. Whether carrying personal stories of its originators, serving as a vehicle for messages of social change, or telling of a moment in history, the music's power lies in the fact that it never strays far from the concrete.
Hillary Kay (vocals, guitar) and Kate Freeman (harmonica), the duo who make up WILDSANG, understand this. SKY DIRT SPEAK OUT TRUTH grabs hold from the first guitar strum and harmonica wail, with a busy, energetic sound as full as an entire band. Kay doesn't quite have the whiskey-soaked growl of an old-time blues shouter, but she's working on it, and her voice is a flexible instrument that's rich and expressive.
She speaks just as much with her guitar, with strongly accented picking and an aggressive, full-bodied slide. Freeman has been playing harmonica since the 1960s and though she plays a supporting role here, she does it with distinction.
WILDSANG'S material is worthy of all this talent, consisting mostly of multi-layered originals alongside which the cover songs, "Smokestack Lightning" and "Spoonful", feel right at home. Especially powerful is "Aint No Strange Fruit". Which not only references the Billie Holiday song but feels like a response sung back across the decades: Message received Billie and thank you.
WILDSANG hails from New Mexico, but its sound is rooted in those of the Delta and the Piedmont, the latter providing a bit of sunshine on what is, by and large, a pretty dark piece of work.
SKY DIRT SPEAK OUT TRUTH is the duo's second album, but Kay and Freeman have the skill and emotional power of seasoned veterans. May they be with us for a long time to come.
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WILDSANG - SKY DIRT SPEAK OUT TRUTH
3RD Coast Music Review - Summer 2004
by John Conquest
(WILDSANG 4.5 flowers, out of a possible five)
When I commented a while back on the scarcity of young black roots musicians, I fully expected, indeed hoped, to get jumped on by people saying "Shows how little you know if you've never heard of . . ." Didn't happen, and it's taken that long for me to flush out another, but on the other hand, she was worth the wait. Hillary Kay, whose grand uncle was King Oliver, father a classical composer and mother a one-time Freedom Rider, with her partner, harmonica player Kate Freeman(a self-styled 'anti-Popper'), brings such a raw intensity to Delta and Piedmont blues that, willy nilly, she reignites the endless debate over blues authenticity.
The fuel here is Ain't No Strange Fruit, Kay's radical reworking of the Billie Holiday classic, which could not possibly be performed by a white woman, and while rape and revenge (Josie), a young mother cast out by her family (Biscuits) or a woman abandoned by the father of her three children (My Baby) may sound race-neutral, Kay is quite clearly speaking from the black experience. A formidable guitarist, she and Freeman, who are in the process of moving to the Bay Area (I'm guessing there's not a lot of call for a female blues duo in Coyote, New Mexico), stake out their territory with two covers, Howlin' Wolf's Smokestack Lightnin' and Willie Dixon's Spoonful, but it's Kay's originals, her passionate vocals and Freeman's spot on dirty harp playing that make this a real find for anyone who's given up on bar blues. JC
3rd Coast Music
San Antonio, TX
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The Wild Song of WILDSANG
The Santa Fe New Mexican - Pasatiempo, September 19, 2003
by Steve Terrell
A surprise highlight of the recent
Thirsty Ear Festival
-- in fact, Iíve found, the first band I find myself mentioning when people ask about the
festival -- was a two-woman blues group based in Coyote, N.M.
There inside the "hotel" saloon at the Eaves Ranch the duo started off with an oft-covered blues chestnut, "Smokestack Lightning." But just a few bars into the tune it was obvious this wasnít a typical blues cover band. It was hands down the most passionate and gripping version of that I've heard since Howlin' Wolf died. WILDSANG almost seemed to be channeling the lonesome spirit of the Wolf.
But even better were the original tunes that followed -- songs about rapes, lynching, and other happy topics.
WILDSANG -- the name is a reference to wild ginseng -- has one of the most intense singers I've heard in awhile. Hillary Kay, according to her press material, is descended from jazz diety Joe "King" Oliver (heís an uncle according to her bio). She also plays guitar, including a mean slide.
Although the spotlight is on Kay and her songs, harmonica player Kate Freeman, the second half of WILDSANG, is an essential part of the groupís sound. Her piercing tones complete the raw soundscape.
The songs they did at their Thirsty Ear set appear on WILDSANGís latest album, SKY DIRT SPEAK OUT TRUTH. While the CD doesnít quite match the electricity of their live performance, itís a good representation of the groupís basic vocals/guitar/harmonica/ sound, resisting the common temptation of bringing in a bunch of musical pals to clutter things up in the studio.
WILDSANG plows some of the same disturbing ground as Colorado bluesman Otis Taylor, who I believe is the most important artist of the generation that rose in the Ď90s. Like Taylorís songs, Kayís lyrics look unflinchingly at historical horrors and atrocities African Americans have face in this country. (Is there a Rocky Mountain blues movement based in social realism developing here?)
A unifying attribute of Kayís characters is that they fight back in the face of oppression.
"Ainít No Strange Fruit" takes its title from the classic Billie Holiday tune. But here Kay doesnít just describe a lynching. The victimís wife (and the narratorís grandmother) takes it upon herself to kill a Klansman in revenge.
Violent vengeance is also the theme of "Josie," a story about rape. "I did not have my daddyís shotgun/ Did not have my .22 Ö just the machete for the sugarcane/Josie said that would do."
One of the most moving story songs here is "Biscuits," the tale of a pregnant girl forced to leave her home by a religious father. ("That girl of yours is gonna bring the devil down on us all!") By the end of the tune, 10 years have past and the mother and son are preparing for a trip to see the family she left behind. "Honey, theyíre still your family, no matter how long itís been," the mother tells her boy.
Itís not all blood and tragedy on the album though. Thereís plenty of love -- and lust -- songs
like "Jump Down Mama." And subtly satisfying is the closing song, "Big Top Circus," which is
about the simple joys of a day at the circus. Itís as sweet as some of their songs are violent.
Somehow I believe Howliní Wolf himself would appreciate WILDSANG.
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